Producer Kalim Patel’s musical project Khushi pulls the eclectic artist out of years of silence and showcases his breathtaking vocals and production. “Strange Seasons” marks Khushi’s return to the musical landscape as an engaging and captivating artist.
Patel has mostly stayed behind the scenes in the music world throughout the past decade, helping to shape the sounds of other artists — most notably, English singer-songwriter James Blake and his 2019 album “Assume Form.” Now, Patel is letting his own voice be heard, working under the name “Khushi,” a Hindu word for “happiness” that was his childhood nickname.
A simple album with only 10 tracks and no features, “Strange Seasons” is pristine. James Blake mixed the album with Khushi, and his presence has its influence on the album as a whole. Whereas Blake’s most recent album “Assume Form” is hectic, filled with stellar collaborations and intricate production, “Strange Seasons” is more stripped down and atmospheric. The project has a lucid quality that is reflected in the breakout single “Freedom Falls.”
“Freedom Falls” has been reimagined multiple times over the last 10 years, a journey that Khushi explained in an interview with Complex Magazine.
“It’s been with me through various different bands, and I thought it never quite fulfilled its potential, but I always had faith in it,” Khushi said. “The first version of it was more like an indie band, and then I had a version that was more groove-based, it almost sounded like a weak Jai Paul impersonation.”
The final product of Khushi’s labor, “Freedom Falls,” drew from a demo he had made for a friend. The mellow and thoughtful notes build in tempo and volume until a catchy beat is achieved as Khushi sings the second verse, “Now the sound of the change / All that’s keeping us sane / And you try to shut it down / But there’s no way to keep it out.”
The album’s recording took place over the course of six years in a shed next to a train station in the Hackney borough of East London. The process was slow due to Khushi’s perfectionism and his initial annoyance by the sounds of passing trains, though he came to embrace the sounds of the city on the final track “Like a City,” which ends with the howling sound of a train outside his studio. It is a charming reminder of where Khushi’s album began. Ending the song in that way fits the tone of the lyrics describing his surroundings, “Like a city drowning in its own possibilities / Like a city almost done, I could hardly keep you out.”
One of the stand-out tracks on the EP is “This Is, Pt. I & II.” The song run time is over seven minutes long, but the track’s nature is so engaging that the length easily coalesces with the rest of the album. Instead of waiting for the track to end, the length allows the listener to appreciate the emotion behind the song.
The song focuses on Khushi’s creative process and his perfectionist nature. Khushi admits that while he does not always know what the finished song will sound like from the start, he accepts amendments and final cuts, letting listeners know, “And this is / Not quite what I intended / But it’s where I’ve ended, it’s where I’ve ended / It’s where I / This is / Not quite how I planned it / But it’s where I’ve landed/It’s where I’ve landed.”
Another track that exemplifies Khushi’s work is the song “Call To Arms.” Khushi takes a minimalist approach, using just his voice and a piano as the primary instruments. He works in his own voice played over itself to stack up harmonies and build a multilayered, rich piece that highlights the simplistic tone of the album.
For anyone needing to kick back and lose themselves to the music, “Strange Seasons” does the trick. It is a 41-minute deep dive into Khushi’s soundscape. For fans of James Blake and artists like him, “Strange Seasons” builds on an artistic genre. The meticulous process behind Khushi’s music has successfully created a dynamic album, but hopefully listeners will not need to wait 10 more years for his next project.